United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ST. EVE U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
the Court is Plaintiff Sherard Martin's
(“Martin”) motion for attorneys' fees and
costs. (R. 103.) Defendants the City of Chicago (the
“City”) and Chicago Police Department
(“CPD”) Officers Davis Marinez, Sofia Gonzalez
(Arellano),  Armando Chagoya, and Elvis Turcinovic
(collectively, “Defendants”) oppose the motion.
(R. 106-1, 109.) The Court denies Plaintiff's motion for
attorneys' fees and costs.
Court assumes the parties' familiarity with the
proceedings thus far. On May 24, 2015, Martin commenced this
action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging false arrest
(Count I), unlawful search (Count II), and indemnification
under state law against the City (Count III). (R. 1.) Before
the Court granted summary judgment in part to Defendants,
Martin sought $65, 000 in damages for his incarceration and
$45, 500 in lost business income in relation to his
automobile dealership. (See R. 38, Defs.'
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, ¶ 15; R. 47,
Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, ¶ 15.)
moved for partial summary judgment on August 23, 2016,
arguing that Martin “c[ould] not proceed on any claims
related to the Defendant Officers' conduct after their
discovery of the contraband, ” which supplied the
officers with probable cause. (R. 37, Opening Br., 2, 8-9.)
Defendants conceded that Martin “c[ould] . . . proceed
on his claim related to his brief detention on [the] scene
before the handgun and drugs were found, the search of his
person, and the search of his vehicle.” (Id.
at 9.) The Court agreed with Defendants in its January 2017
opinion. (R. 56 at 4-5.) In granting Defendants' partial
summary judgment, the Court made clear that
“Martin's Section 1983 case may proceed as to the
initial stop and search of his person and car on May 24,
2013-before Defendants' discovery of the illegal firearm
and crack cocaine.” (Id. at 16.) Martin also
had a false arrest claim based on his detention until
Defendants found the firearm. (Id.)
commenced on July 14, 2017 and the jury began deliberating on
July 17, 2017, the second day of trial. (R. 92; R. 95.) On
July 18, 2017, the jury returned its verdict. (R. 98.) The
jury found for Defendants on Claim II (unlawful search) and
Claim III (false arrest). (Id.) On Claim I (unlawful
seizure), the jury found for Defendants Chagoya and
Turcinovic, but found for Plaintiff with respect to
Defendants Marinez and Gonzalez. (Id.) The jury
awarded Martin $1 in nominal damages and no punitive damages.
(Id.) The jury's damages finding reflected the
jury instruction that “[i]f you find in favor of
Plaintiff but find that the plaintiff has failed to prove
compensatory damages, you must return a verdict for Plaintiff
in the amount of one dollar ($1.00).” (R. 97 at 28);
see Pattern Civil Jury Instructions of the Seventh
Circuit 7.23 (2015).
now moves for attorneys' fees and costs. (R. 103.) He
seeks $79, 048 in total based on Stephen L. Richards working
69.4 hours at an $826 per-hour rate and Joshua S.M. Richards
51.6 hours at a $421 per-hour rate. (Id.) While
Plaintiff does not mention costs in his brief, it appears he
requests $1, 537.20 in costs resulting from depositions and
filing fees. (R. 103-2.)
prevailing party in a § 1983 action may recover
reasonable attorneys' fees. See 42 U.S.C. §
1988(b); see Baker v. Lindgren, 856 F.3d 498, 503
(7th Cir. 2017). Generally, “[t]he appropriate fee
under § 1988 is the market rate for the legal services
reasonably devoted to the successful portion of the
litigation.” Richardson v. City of Chicago,
740 F.3d 1099, 1103 (7th Cir. 2014). Where, as in this case,
a jury awards nominal damages, the plaintiff is a
“prevailing party” under § 1988. Farrar
v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 112 (1992); see also Aponte
v. City of Chicago, 728 F.3d 724, 726 (7th Cir. 2013).
Nevertheless, “a reasonable attorney's fee for a
nominal victor is usually zero.” Aponte, 728
F.3d at 727; see also Farrar, 506 U.S. at 115
(“When a plaintiff recovers only nominal damages
because of his failure to prove an essential element of his
claim for monetary relief, the only reasonable fee is usually
no fee at all.”).
Seventh Circuit follows a three-part test from Justice
O'Connor's concurrence in Farrar “when
assessing fee awards to trifling victories.”
Aponte, 728 F.3d at 727. Courts consider “(1)
the difference between the amount recovered and the damages
sought, (2) the significance of the issue on which the
plaintiff prevailed relative to the issues litigated, and (3)
whether the case accomplished some public goal.” The
Seventh Circuit reviews a district court's application of
the Farrar test for abuse of discretion.
Aponte, 728 F.3d at 731; see also Briggs v.
Marshall, 93 F.3d 355, 361 (7th Cir. 1996). In
Cartwright v. Stamper, the plaintiffs were only
awarded a nominal one dollar for each of their claims, and
yet they petitioned for over $110, 000 in fees and expenses.
7 F.3d 106, 108 (7th Cir. 1993). The Seventh Circuit reversed
the district court's award of some $52, 000, finding that
the court “should have summarily denied the petition
for fees.” Id. at 110. See also Maul v.
Constan, 23 F.3d 143, 147 (7th Cir. 1994) (“Having
weighed the Farrar factors, we hold that the
district court abused its discretion by awarding
attorney's fees to Maul: the difference between the
judgment sought and obtained was great and the public purpose
of the litigation was minimal. Since plaintiff's victory
was de minimis, an award of attorney's fees was
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(1) provides that
“costs-other than attorney's fees-should be allowed
to the prevailing party.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d)(1);
see also Richardson, 740 F.3d at 1102 (“Rule
54 entitles prevailing parties to recover their
costs”); Goldberg v. 401 N. Wabash Venture
LLC, 2013 WL 4506071, *1 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 23, 2013).
“The list of recoverable costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1920, includes: (1) fees of the clerk and marshal, (2)
fees for transcripts, (3) witness fees and expenses, (4) fees
for copies of papers necessarily obtained for use in the
case, (5) docket fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1923, and (6)
compensation for court-appointed experts and
interpreters.” Thompson v. Vill. of Monee,
2016 WL 128005, *1 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 12, 2016), appeal
dismissed (Feb. 26, 2016) (referencing U.S.
Neurosurgical, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 572 F.3d 325,
333 (7th Cir. 2009); Republic Tobacco Co. v. North Atl.
Trading Co., Inc., 481 F.3d 442, 447 (7th Cir.
2007)); see also Harney v. City of Chicago, 702 F.3d
916, 927 (7th Cir. 2012).
54(d)(1) “creates a presumption in favor of awarding
costs to the prevailing party, ” Myrick v.
WellPoint, Inc.,764 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2014), but
gives “the district judge discretion to decide whether
an award of costs is appropriate.” Chesemore v.
Fenkell,829 F.3d 803, 816 (7th Cir. 2016). See also
U.S. Neurosurgical, 572 F.3d at 333; Rivera v. City
of Chicago, 469 F.3d 631, 634 (7th Cir. 2006) (Rule
54(d)(1) “provides a presumption that the losing party
will pay costs but grants the court discretion to direct
otherwise.”). Taxing costs against the non-prevailing
party requires two inquiries-whether the cost is recoverable
and whether the amount assessed is reasonable. See U.S.
Neurosurgical, 572 F.3d at 333; Little v. Mitsubishi
Motors N. Am., Inc., 514 F.3d 699, 702 (7th Cir. 2008)
(per curiam). “Any party ...